It may have been ugly, but the Crimson Tide finally won a game away from home, effectively removing the monkey that has been hanging on their back for the last couple of years. Tennessee's new head coach, Donnie Tyndall, did his best to get the Volunteer crowd rowdy for this game, even going as far as bribing the student section with free pizza. Anthony Grant and his team entered hostile territory and managed to fight through the crowd noise to pull out a win against a sub-par Tennessee basketball squad.
The game started ugly, as the two squads combined for 9 total points and four turnovers. The Tide crawled out to a 14-8 lead, but Robert Hubbs III hit a quick five points in about 45 seconds to to bring Tennessee within a point of tying the game. Sparked by a beautiful stolen pass and breakaway lay-up by Ricky Tarrant, Alabama proceeded to go on a 7-0 run and lead the game by a score of 21-13 with six minutes left in the half. The Vols clawed their way to a closer score after that, and the half ended at a Tide lead of 29-24 with Jimmie Taylor and Derek Reese dunking the ball on both ends of the court.
Tennessee started the second half hot, led by the senior and leading scorer Josh Richardson. Richardson scored the first 8 points of the half in a span of three minutes for Tennessee, during which Alabama managed to hit a single free throw. Derek Reese made a couple of free throws, and Tennessee took the lead for the first time with a score of 35-36. Tennessee did not score again for 13 minutes.
Led by Rodney Cooper, Jimmie Taylor's blocks, and a flurry of free throws from the rest of the team, the Crimson Tide went on an 18-0 run before Armani Moore hit a layup with 35 seconds left in the game. Levi Randolph sank a three pointer to end the low-scoring affair with a final score of 56-38.
Rodney Cooper was the best player in the game for Alabama today, leading the team with 17 points (nine of which came on three point shots) on a 70% shooting day. Cooper was all over the court on defense, and added five rebounds, five assists, and a steal. He also did not have a single foul the entire game. Ricky Tarrant also had a really good day, putting up 14 points and a couple of steals, but he missed a lot of shots too, hitting only 36% of his shots on the day.
Jimmie Taylor had one of his best games of the season, and looks to be finally getting involved in the offense. He was third on the team with 13 points, didn't miss a single shot, and added a couple of blocks. I am liking Taylor more and more, and if he can get his shooting ability to match his defense, he has the potential to be the best inside man the Tide has put on the court in many moons.
Senior Levi Randolph had a mostly quiet game. He added 9 points, 3 steals, and 5 rebounds but overall did not have much impact on the game. Michael Kessens had a rough day, turning the ball over four times to only three points.
Those five Cooper, Taylor, Tarrant, Kessens, and Randolph were the starters, and the bench added all of 0 points to the Tide's effort.
It was an eye sore of a game that was less great defense than just a plethora of really bad shots and anemic offenses. The Tide's offensive strategy is still the same as it has always been under Anthony Grant: pass the ball around and around the perimeter until the time runs out and someone has to force a shot. Maybe its just me, but Jimmie Taylor's 100% shooting on the day suggests that maybe Coach Grant might want to look into feeding the ball inside, but what do I know?
Regardless, a win is a win, especially in the fact that the Tide FINALLY won an away game and improve their SEC record to 2-0.